'Ride for Phil' remembers tow truck operator killed during winter storm
Members of Ottawa's towing community gather to honour colleague struck while helping driver
A tow truck driver struck and killed by the driver of a snowplow near Arnprior during Monday's storm is being remembered as a loving father and hard worker who would do anything for anybody.
Phillip Smith, 33, had been trying to help a driver stuck along the side of Highway 417 just west of Ottawa when he was struck.
Ontario Provincial Police said the fatal collision happened just before 12:30 p.m. underneath the White Lake Road overpass after most of the almost 50 centimetres of snow had fallen in the capital region.
On Thursday, about 100 members of Ottawa's towing community gathered to remember Smith and remind motorists to slow down and move over for tow trucks and emergency vehicles.
The group gathered outside Ottawa's baseball stadium on Coventry Road before travelling in a convoy down Highway 417 to the other end of the city at the Canadian Tire Centre in a memorial "Ride for Phil."
"It's unbelievable, I cannot believe all the support for my son," said Tryna Smith, who attended the ride with her other son Sabastian.
"I wasn't expecting it to turn out this many people, but I guess they're family right," Sabastian said.
Smith's mother said the family appreciated all the support describing how much it would mean to her son.
"We love you Phillip and we miss you and we're all going to take care of everybody, including all your kids," said Tryna Smith.
Phillip Smith leaves behind two young children, who were also at the event, and their mother Amanda Duheme.
"Not a single day will go by where I won't think of you. I'll make sure your kids remember you and how much you loved us, I promise you that," Duheme posted on her Facebook page after Smith's death.
Slow down and move over
Smith worked for Canadian Towing Service and members of the towing community who attended the ride said, although companies compete for business, they come together when a tragedy happens.
"We work for different companies, but at the end of the day, we have to stick together out here, watch out for each other's backs for this exact reason," said Junior Marc Latreille, who organized the ride.
Latreille, the owner of 613 Wrecked, said he hopes the ride not only pays tribute to Smith, but also raises awareness.
"Just take your time, switch lanes, slow down, give us a space to work. We want to go home to our families at the end of the day," Latreille said.
Wayne Harris, who knew Smith from his time as a tow truck operator, said when the community loses a driver, it impacts everyone.
"You're out there helping the people and you're putting your life on the line, you don't know if you're coming home … just shouldn't have happened," Harris said.
OPP said the collision investigation continues. The Ministry of Labour was contacted and is also investigating.